Today, my cat was climbing on a shelf in my living room trying to get to my son, seeking attention or maybe being a predator (who knows why cats do anything?) In her gymnastic feat, she managed to knock over a basket of seashells that we have collected on vacations over the years. As I was scooping them up and thinking seriously angry thoughts about a cat free house, the Holy Spirit whispered, “It is her nature to do these things, just like you were born with a purely human nature.”
I sat there with sea shells, sand, and a few dust bunnies at my feet, feeling a little stunned and more than a little convicted. My cat cared very little that my seashells were broken or that my living room floor was a mess. Her only concern was what she wanted at that moment. Her nature and my old nature are way more similar than I am comfortable admitting.
As humans, we are born with a human nature that is sinful (rejecting God’s ways) and selfish (manipulative and seeking our own gratification). It is the result of Adam’s sin deadened spirit passed down through the human race. The Bible calls it iniquity, the bend that is in us to do wrong. It expresses itself in motives that seek our own good and reject God’s higher heart and ways. Sometimes, this old nature masquerades as good intentions and right looking service. We can do right things (go to church, give in the offerings, and even serve in ministry) with a hidden agenda of receiving (things or the high esteem of men) instead of demonstrating the nature of God. It looks good on the outside, but on the inside it stinks of Adam’s nature.
The most obvious example is Judas Iscariot. He walked with the same Jesus that Peter, James, and John did. All the disciples watched Jesus heal the blind, the lame, the lepers and heard the same words of life falling from His lips. So what happened (or did not happen) in Judas? I cannot believe that the Lord called Judas to follow Him just to condemn him to torment in hell because he was in someway a defective disciple. That is not consistent with Jesus’ God nature. No, I believe that while the other disciples were walking with the Lord and drinking in His life changing words and presence, Judas dipped into his Adamic nature and started asking, “What about me?”
When Jesus first chose Judas to be one of the twelve, it was quite an honor for him. At that time, Jesus was considered a miracle working prophet that everyone wanted to be around. He had not yet confronted the rigid self-righteousness of the religious crowd and incurred their enmity. He hadn’t yet driven away the greedy crowds looking for the next big sensation. People were celebrating Jesus when Judas accepted His commission so there was no price tag to following Him. The shadow of the cross wasn’t yet lying on the road.
But those days did come, when following Jesus meant that Judas wasn’t popular and it no longer looked like he was going to get a big prestigious position on the Sanhedrin. Sometimes, it looked like hard and thankless work, waiting on the tables of hungry rabble when Jesus fed them with miraculous fish dinners. There was no prestige to be had when the people who were coming to the Master were the poor and the dirty. So while Peter, James, and John saw these things and stood amazed at the sight, Judas went to the sidelines and thought, “What about me?”
This is the whisper, then the murmuring, then the trumpeting crescendo of the old human nature, “What about me? What do I get? How does this profit me? What am I gaining?” We know how this ended with Judas, how he finally yielded finally to that selfish cry inside him and sold the innocent Lamb of God for a mere thirty silver coins.
We shudder at the thought that we could be like Judas, but the truth is that the same nature resides in each of us. We see it when people who are carrying the name of Christ take advantage of others (physically, financially, or emotionally) and put their own pleasure and convenience as first priority. We see it when church folk are all righteous and upstanding when the spotlight of attention is shining on them, but will not wrap a towel around their waist to wash the feet of those who cannot add anything to them. Yes, that old nature is alive and well today.
So what is the remedy? How can we escape the gravity of this Adamic nature and put on that new man we read about in the scriptures? The apostle Paul cried out, “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
Isaiah 53:7 proclaims that Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities”. When I stand in front of the cross and remember Him, I am aghast at the horror I find. Jesus, the pure and holy One, stood with gashes and welts torn into His flesh. Thorns were forced into God’s own brow; His body was black with bruises as capillaries burst under His skin from the brutal assault He received. His sinless blood poured from His crucified body. And the thought of that horrific day with its unthinkable violence is all the more appalling when I realize that it was my transgressions that caused such suffering. It was my bend to the selfish sin of my old nature that made Him bleed. It was my hands (the actions of my wrong motives) that hammered the nails through those holy hands. I was the guilty one. This was my bad.
And in that place of abject sorrow and repentance, His voice whispers, “I forgive you. I love you so much that I would choose that cross again today if that is what it took to set you free from the penalty of your sin.” This is the place that I find freedom and release from that Adamic nature with its tendency to selfish sin. It is the place where I embrace the Lord, and in turn crucify my old man. Jesus has delivered me from those shackles yet again. This is the place of true repentance and joyful freedom.
Have you visited that cross lately, saint? Have you faced your own motives and placed them before the heat of His fiery gaze recently? If not, I would like to extend an invitation from the Holy Spirit to come and look afresh. It is the only way to break the gravity of your old nature. From the position of gazing at His cross, you are enabled to rise, empowered to put on your new (renewed) attitude, and proclaim, “What about Jesus? How can I glorify Him today? How can I bring Him joy? Let Him be the One Who gains from my life.”
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.